Scotch-Irish-L Archives

Archiver > Scotch-Irish > 2010-06 > 1276892714

Subject: Re: [S-I] Question about Smith name
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2010 20:25:14 +0000 (UTC)
In-Reply-To: <04ee01cb0f15$1af16a70$680fa8c0@Dora>

Hi Vilandra, I don't kow what you have been reading, but it's hogwash. They were never a single person and they did not speak Saxon, pure or otherwise. I have actually studied linguistics a little in college -- the person y ou learned this from probably didn't go to college or did so about 1830.

There are several books that describe a methodology for researching SURNAMES (not PEOPLE -- these are very different). One is "The Surname Detective" by Colin Rogers. All his research was in England and Scotland, not Ireland, because of records. He explains methodologies for tracing surnames back in time. P. 122 has a map of Smith which shows it localizes to the south east. This information is useless for tracing your ancestors because it is based on statistics. You are presumedly interested in a particular family (yours), not a statistical study. Still, if you got no clues to go on, it is an important clue.

You can get useful information from definitive surname books such as Reaney and Wilson's "English Surnames" and Black's "Surnames of Scotland". The front matter of these books explain the methodologies used by the authors. Often you can find the names of specific sources that contained the surname very early, like in the English pipe rolls.

If you read the front essays of these books (very important) you will learn a lot about spelling. Do you know what the commonest reason is that people cannot find their ancestors? (I learned this in a course somewhere) It is that they think spelling matters. Actually English spelling was not standardized till very late -- well into the 19th century. People spelled phonetically. Andrew Jackson is credited with saying he had no respect for a man who could only spell a word one way.

This means that all the 21st century chatter about the 'meaning' of particular spellings is wrong. Wrong. WRONG. The genealogy courses are always attempting to explain this. In Ireland in particular, recently (meaning in the last 150 years or so), particular spellings took on certain cultural meanings. The spelling of your ancestor has no significance to their ethnic origin. I have known people whose ancestors changed their religion and ethnicity three times in Ireland and changed the spelling to reflect the ethnicity each time. I have also viewed church records in England, Scotland, and Ireland and I have seen how the parish priests and clergy spelled. So I know these genealogy courses are right.

Do you know when surnames came in use in northern England? How about Scotland? How about Ulster? You can learn by reading the front matter of the two books I mentioned above on the history of surnames. Let me lay another one on you: Bell "Book of Ulster Surnames". He uses the other two books as sources. However go to a library that has the other two and read their front essays if you seriously want to learn about this. Invaluable information. Bell explains that in some places in Ulster people were changing their surname frequently up till 1900.

They didn't have surnames when the Saxons ruled Sussex and Wessex (not northeastern England). No one did. Even the Normans didn't exist them. And they invented surnames.

Linda Merle
----- Original Message -----
From: "" <>
Sent: Friday, June 18, 2010 2:36:02 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Re: [S-I] Question about Smith name

I recently learned that all of the border area between Scotland and England
consisted of a single people who spoke a pure ancient Saxon dialect until
the 19th century. That means among other things that people in the
northernmost counties of England did not speak what we know as English
before the 18th century.

The Saxon I1 Y DNA of my Smith line suggests they came from this region -
or south of it. They were Scotch Irish by the time they arrived in

I am wondering how far north the name Smith by that pronunciation and
spelling was common. Was it common in Northumbria, Cumbria and Durham?
Was it common at all in southern Scotland?

I'm also curious about the maiden name of my emigrant Smith's wife, who came
with him; Smyth or Smythe. I thought maybe it was the Saxon form until I
found out that was "Smid".

What variant forms of this name were common in the northern counties of
England, and in Scotland?


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